I, FOR ONE, am excited to see Harry Potter ditch the wizard robe and get into something a little more comfortable. Er, kinda. In the horror movie The Woman in Black, Daniel Radcliffe is stuffed into a tight little turn-of-the-century vest and suit, looking young and vulnerable as he skulks around a gloomy haunted mansion with a candle, on the hunt for things that go bump in the night that don't wear tea towels. (House-elf reference!) And because the film has some genuinely, thoroughly chilling moments, it's not even that hard to remind yourself that this isn't about the Boy Who Lived.
Young widower Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) is a frowny single father to his young son as he continues to mourn the loss of his wife from childbirth. As a destitute, fledgling lawyer, he's sent to a remote English village by his London firm to suss out the complicated will and testament of a deceased woman. The villagers are super unfriendly and weird—they want Arthur the hell outta town—and far, far away from the dead woman's decrepit mansion. Determined, Arthur sets out to the house, which sits on an elevated bit of land in the marsh, stranded twice a day by the incoming tide. It's there he goes through ridiculous amounts of paperwork by candlelight, haunted by a black-clad female ghost who seeks vengeance on the town's children. Matters only get worse when the town's children start to commit suicide.
This is the first British-filmed picture from the resurrected Hammer Films, makers of umpteen gothic horror classics in the last half of the 20th century—and in grand Hammer fashion, Woman in Black has a name star (Daniel Radcliffe), British locations, and moody Victorian setpieces. On many levels, it's a very good foundation for Hammer's revival: It's chilling. The mansion is spooky as hell. The story clicks along at a steady pace. But then the jump scares get thick and hoary, Radcliffe starts to seem too boyish to pull off the role, and then there's a few more brazenly soundtracked jump scares, to boot. All its annoyances are pretty forgivable, really, for a film this steeped in ghostly creeps and ominous fog.